The following is a minuscule extract from Claire Bell’s forthcoming book The Mesolithic Diet for Mind and Body.
The Stone Age was no picnic for its Mesolithic inhabitants, but picnicking for us is a marvellous way to revisit the prehistoric eating experience and to reclaim our Mesolithic mind and body.
A picnic, like walking and earthing, propels us into the fresh air and sunlight, connects us with people, and provides a healthy nutritional encounter.
Picnicking was popular throughout history, although it suffered a minor setback with the release of Picnic at Hanging Rock in 1975.
This spine-withering flick is one of Australia’s most popular, successful, and spooky movies. It’s based on the1967 novel by Joan Lindsay, who scared her already petrified readers even more by refusing to reveal whether it was fact or fiction. This led most Australians, including me, to concur her book was based on a true story.
This misapprehension was partly our fault, but Ms Lindsay also bears responsibility.
This is because she wrote at the start of her book, “Whether picnic at Hanging Rock is fact or fiction, my readers must decide for themselves. As the fateful picnic took place in the year nineteen hundred…,’’ etc., etc.
Most of us decided it was true.
In any case, we were willingly duped because the facts are easily checkable.
Here’s how I learned The Truth: My mother and sister went to the library to read press clippings from the time. When they asked for the newspaper coverage, the librarian smiled and told them:
a) There was no St Valentine’s Day school picnic at Hanging Rock in 1900.
b) There were no press clippings because nothing had happened.
c) When pressed by journalists as to why she hinted her tale was factual, Ms Lindsay simply said it was true for her. (Who knows if Joan really said that, but librarians are benign and reliable people so she probably did.)
In any case, true or false, the book and movie were huge hits and terrified the intestinal contents out of everyone.
Here’s why: On St. Valentine’s Day, 1900, a group of schoolgirls and two of their teachers head off for a picnic at a geological rock formation called Hanging Rock. (This place does exist and it’s a two hour drive from my place. I’ve been there. Nothing happened).
Lots of bone-liquefyingly eerie panpipe music, high-pitched screaming, and ethereal camera work later, several of the girls and one of their teachers disappear, never to be seen again.
Witnesses go mad, the headmistress hangs herself, and no one is ever the same again.
Apart from this supernatural dining al fresco calamity, however, the picnic is still a much loved, and thoroughly commendable, Stone Age outdoor eating tradition designed to calm the nerves and fortify the spirit.
The Art of Picnicking